The French Council of State delivered a ruling on 7 November 2016 following a request for interim relief measures (référé) by civil society organisations, concerning the legality of a decision of 19 August by the Prefecture of French Guiana to temporarily suspend the registration of asylum applications. Access to the procedure is to be suspended until 1 December 2016 at the latest.
Access to registration was suspended following a sharp increase in asylum claims, mainly from Haitian nationals, since the beginning of the year. Between January and August 2016, Guiana registered 4,687 applications, three times more than the number received during the same period in 2015. In order to respond to the processing of higher caseloads, the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) has recently increased its capacity in Guiana.
The Council of State found that such an unpredictable rise in applications has significantly impaired the organisation of the asylum process, as the single desk (guichet unique) in charge of registration was no longer able to respond to its tasks. It noted that the Prefecture nevertheless allowed registration of particularly vulnerable persons, namely pregnant women, severely ill people or unaccompanied children. In light of this, as well as the fact that the administration had taken efforts to restructure the registration system in Guiana, the suspension did not amount to serious and manifestly illegal infringement of the right to asylum. The request for interim measures was therefore rejected.
In its critique of the ruling, La Cimade notes that the policy of allowing access to the procedure for vulnerable persons was never officially stated or communicated to the relevant organisations assisting asylum seekers in the registration process. At the same time, the categories of vulnerable groups identified by the Council of State appear much more limited than those set out in the recast Reception Conditions Directive.
It should be noted that the Administrative Tribunal of Paris has found a serious and manifestly illegal violation of the right to asylum in over 130 cases during 2015 and 2016, related to undue delays by the Prefecture in registering asylum applications, beyond the time limit of 10 working days permitted by the recast Asylum Procedures Directive.
Beyond France, civil society organisations in Italy denounced the temporary suspension of registration of asylum applications by the Questura of Rome earlier this autumn.
For more information, see:
- La Cimade, Guyane: L’asile mis entre parenthèses avec l’assentiment du Conseil d’Etat, 16 November 2016.
- AIDA, France: Authorities under court order to register asylum applications, 25 April 2016.
- AIDA, Country Report France: Fourth Update, December 2016.